"The important thing is that it’s healthy," says a cashier, after having asked the pregnant woman, paying at the row in the supermarket, about the sex of her baby.
"And even if it weren’t?" replies the woman. She has a belly that certainly doesn’t go unnoticed, and she is waiting for a child with special needs.
Chiara is in the ninth month of pregnancy and is looking forward to getting to know her little Maria Grace Leticia, with whom she knows she will be only have a short time, because the child has been diagnosed with anencephaly and will probably die shortly after birth.
Physical well-being is often seen by many as an “absolute”, almost as an idol and, so, considered an evaluation criterion to establish whether a life is "worthy" of being lived or not.
And Chiara is tired of hearing such talk, of seeing people looking at her with compassion, as if her daughter is not a gift just because she is sick.
Chiara's greatness lies in her way of looking at others: she, as any other, is a gift for the simple fact of being.
Chiara’s story: if love actually destroys death
There are stories so dense in meaning, so enriching and stimulating, so genuine, true and extraordinary that you find it hard to synthesize them, to tell them. Whichever way you may talk about it, you feel as if you were spoiling it somehow.
And so you try. You approach, tiptoe-ing, with respect, knowing that words cannot say everything.
It is in this way that I approach the beautiful story of Chiara Corbella and try to tell you something about this young mother who knew how to give herself entirely to her three children, putting them first, even when it required great sacrifices.
It is with admiration and gratitude that I speak to you about this very common Roman woman, who welcomed life without any “ifs, ands, or buts.”
As soon as the abnormality of the first child is discovered, the woman and her husband are offered "therapeutic abortion," but they refuse: they believe in the idea that therapy cures and does not kill, and they decide to "accompany the child as far as they can."
It is the first "Yes to life, always and everywhere," given by Chiara Corbella and Enrico Petrillo, whose story is told in the book We were born and we will never die again (Editrice Porziuncola, 13 euro, by Simone Troisi and Cristiana Paccini, 2013).
Life is not measured in terms of duration
Chiara will always remember her childbirth and the embrace of her child with such tenderness and joy that, she says, she would certainly not have known if she had instead had an abortion. "No matter how long we have been mothers – it will be affirmed as it’s witnessed – what matters is that we have received this gift."
A year later, Chiara gives birth to David Joseph, but he too will soon leave his parents: he will be known and embraced by his loved ones for a few minutes, and after having being baptized, then he will die, just like his sister.
Among the diseases of the two siblings there is no correlation, there is no genetic predisposition which causes Chiara and Enrico to conceive children with abnormalities: the results of the tests that the spouses undergo clarify that it is a mere coincidence and deny all those who consider Chiara and Enrico reckless. While many suggest, more or less covertly, not trying for more children, the Petrillos understand that they are called to testify that life is measured neither in terms of time nor physical well-being.
For Chiara and Enrico, God creates man for eternity and it is wrong to judge the beauty or importance of an existence by its duration or by its health. What gives meaning and fullness to one’s life, to them, is love. As Chiara used to say: "In life, it is not important to do something, but to be born and be loved." Her children had a short earthly experience, but they were loved and this is the essential point.
"Don't tell my son that I died for him. I gave my life for him."
Chiara becomes pregnant again. This time the child is fine but at the fifth month of pregnancy the Petrillos face yet another great test: Chiara has a tumor on her tongue. The treatment, however, would compromise the health of the child. What to do, then? The mother has no doubts: she cannot overshadow her son's health to think of her own. She already feels like the mother of that teeny tiny baby hidden in her belly. Thus, she postpones treatment until the time of delivery, which she wishes to undergo when the child is no longer at risk.
She will carry the pregnancy to term with a disarming serenity. She believes in Divine Providence, and this helps her to carry out all her "small possible steps" every day. He has moments of discouragement, from which however he always comes out stronger and renewed.
After the birth of Francis, Chiara will begin to heal herself, but after about a year "the dragon" will fully take over…Or perhaps not.
It is June 13, 2012: Chiara says goodbye to her family, telling everyone that she loves them deeply and, with a mysterious joy in her heart, leaves this world.
Since then, however, her story has begun to be spread around the world: her courageous choices, free from any compromise, continue to inspire many young mothers – and not only them – all over the world. The tumor took her away, but Chiara is more alive than ever and continues to be an anthem of generosity, to the beauty of giving oneself. With her trust in a God who, despite allowing pain, "is good and only gives good things to his children," offers a hope capable of extinguishing discouragement, passivity, utilitarianism, the desire for momentary fulfillment. For Chiara, the choices must always be looked at in view of eternity: the "cross is temporary placement," the love you receive and that you sow, however, is forever.
If marriage is not just a "piece of paper": Chiara and Enrico are really one
We are born and we will never die again is not just a book that can regenerate and help mothers who have difficult pregnancies, it is not just a mild but decisive voice in defense of life in any case, in every stage, without exception. This book can also be useful to those who want to discover or deepen the beauty of the vocation to marriage. Chiara, faced with troubling events, which are even more painful – she will come to say – than illness itself.
After six years of suffering and defeats, she is able to truly welcome her future husband when she realizes that "the opposite of love is possession," when she "welcomes it as a gift" and no longer considers it her right.
The book opens with the beginning of the relationship between Chiara and Enrico, which allows us get to know and go through the different steps that the couple makes to say a courageous and mature "Yes" in front of an altar.
It is nice to see how from a crisis, which seems to mark the end of their relationship, comes instead the fullness of marriage. How so? Simply changing the way we stay together, how we treat each other.
The first "Yes" that Chiara and Enrico pronounced was that of young spouses. From their solid and genuine union, will bloom the entire following "Yes’s."
It is because they welcomed God's inexhaustible love into their lives and learned to love each other deeply that they were able to give themselves to their children unconditionally.